Six more city employees have been laid off as officials grapple with a new $3.5 million budget shortfall — and the timing has frustrated some city council members.
Many of them had requested that the layoffs not be instituted until after they discuss the budget amendments in November and December, but Mayor Don Gough instituted the layoffs last week. The move prompted council members to question his tactics.
In an email to Mayor Gough, Council President Mark Smith said the cuts should have come after they received the finance director’s third quarter report, currently scheduled for Oct. 31:
Even though by law you are the chief administrative officer of the city duly elected by the people and having the right to hire and fire, I find your unwillingness to collaborate with the Budget Task Group and the Council discouraging at best.
I continue to disagree with the conclusions you have drawn that have led to what I consider hasty and unnecessary layoffs and service reductions and find your unilateral actions truly unfortunate.
Council Vice President Kerri Lonergan-Dreke expressed a similar sentiment.
“Unfortunately one of the individuals that either was laid off or will be soon is a very valued employee of the Parks and Rec Department in the weight room. I’ve heard from a number of citizens… who are very concerned about the reduction in level of service in this area,” she said. “That building, with the recent remodel and expansion, has generated an increased level in the demand for services. It’s concerning to me that we have an area that is growing, we’ve now got reductions in staff.”
Lonergan-Dreke called the move “destructive.” Councilman Jim Smith agrees.
“The council believes there were options and were willing to use those options. This just seems cold and heartless to me — laying off people right before the holidays when he didn’t have to. ”
For his part, Mayor Gough said things would not have changed even if they delayed the layoffs. His response to Council President Smith is below:
Since the budget group meeting on Wednesday, October 5, 2011, I’ve reviewed the information yesterday upon which budget reductions were predicated and consulted Finance Director Hines again as I did on Monday, August 29, 2011. Neither he nor I have any new financial information that would change the need for the budget reductions framework we outlined on July 26th and have had to implement. Thank you for your inquiry.
The laid off employees include a Public Works project manager, an accounting technician, a programmer, a code enforcement officer, a maintenance worker and a planning manager.